In the general direction of Mecca…

At Contentions, John Podhoretz highlights one aspect of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Dorothy Rabinowitz:  “[T]the genuine innovation of Barack Obama’s presidency,” he summarizes, “is that it has imported much of its sense of the United States and its role in the world straight from the precincts of the post-1960s academy.”  Yet the fact that Obama qualified as a product of academia, at its most elite and elitist, was hardly a hidden aspect of his resume or of his political coalition.  His victory was widely celebrated as a victory for this stratum.  Even during the worst periods of his presidential campaign and during the worst moments of his presidency up to today, he could always depend on a core of ardent, articulate, voluble, and relatively well-to-do supporters from those “precincts”  located in and around universities and wherever so-called “intellectual laborers” labor intellectually.

The supposed origins of Obama’s worldview actually seem less important to Rabinowitz than the distance that Obamaist intellectualism creates between his administration and the people:

A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

Considering Rabinowitz’s emphasis as the piece proceeds on the Obami’s refusal to “name the enemy,” it’s worth pausing to consider the above description in similar terms.  Referring to Obama as an “alien” may even reflect a certain distance on Rabinowitz’s own part from currents of American political opinion that she sets apart and discounts as a “demented fringe.” There may be a much larger number of people who may or may not question where Barack Obama was born, but who may see the word “alien” as both appropriate and never very far from “stranger,” “illegal,” “monster,” “invader,” and “enemy” – as well as, sooner rather than later, but generally in unspoken ways, “scapegoat.”  Indeed, these currents are broad enough, apparently, even to include esteemed anti-intellectualist intellectuals writing for esteemed op-ed pages.

As on the general question of intellectualism, Rabinowitz’s work on what the Obami specifically have been doing wrong tends to summarize what we already know rather than cover new ground.  She remains satisfied overall with reminding us of the Obama Administration’s reluctance to acknowledge that the Islamist enemies of the United States have anything to do with Islam, then finally brings her two themes together:  “The truth about that distance is now sinking in, which is all to the good. A country governed by leaders too principled to speak the name of its mortal enemy needs every infusion of reality it can get.”

What Rabinowitz fails to consider is that the Obamaist refusal even to use words like “Islamist” or “jihadist” reflects a legitimate – if not necessarily valid –  strategic determination whose concept somewhat prevents the determination itself from being discussed openly.  If Holder or Brennan or Napolitano or any number of our ambassadors and generals (including certain famous generals) or Obama himself could speak freely, they might be able to say something like the following:

Our goal is to isolate the most radical forces from the Islamic mainstream, and, since everything we say is heard worldwise, we are forced to use a different language than might be politically convenient domestically.  The foreign audience, including people we want and need on our side, will be offended by crude use of terms like “Islamist,” and “jihadist.”  The domestic audience isn’t ready to make fine distinctions.  It hurts us politically and may even make us look like foolish academics, but we’ve decided to accept that trade-off.  And if you think we’re wrong, just you try explaining the Islamic world to the bitter-clingers!

Even a bitter-clinger might at some length, after noting that he had accurately discerned the condescension in that approach, be moved to sympathize.  Still, that there is an argument for this rhetorical strategy, for accepting certain trade-offs presuming certain definitions and objectives, is not the same thing as saying it has been correctly calculated and calibrated.

In refusing to name the enemy at all, in necessarily rough and somewhat problematic terms, the Obami have communicated the exact opposite of what they likely believe – have in effect defined the enemy as a great, all-but-unnameable, undifferentiatable mass.  The upsurge in open anti-Muslim sentiment in conjunction with the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” project suggests that, deprived of a specific, clearly defined target – Islamo-fascism, radical Islamism, jihadism, Islamist extremism, etc. – people do not disengage:  Instead, they switch their ideological gunfire from aimed and tightly grouped bursts at “the terrorists” to uncoordinated spraying fire in the general direction of Mecca. In the meantime, the Obami feed suspicions that they are too cowardly to speak the truth – or, even worse, are afraid to let some different truth (about whose side they’re really on) from getting out.  That anyone could believe such a thing may strike an alien at the Wall Street Journal as bizarre. It might strike those of us on certain mailing lists or who frequent certain popular web sites as quite familiar, and troubling.

New acts of violence as well as new diplomatic and rhetorical challenges from those who happily and determinedly seek to associate themselves with the unmentionable words, and in the broadest way possible, may ensure that the Administration’s rhetorical strategy fails.  Eventually, the rise of a popular, openly anti-Muslim movement may be inestimably more dangerous to America’s strategic aims and international posture – and also to American political life – than the friction or inconvenience of using names that others may happen to take the wrong way, or seek to exploit opportunistically.

Political action in the here and now requires partial concepts, the pounding of sometimes ill-fitting pegs into conceptual holes, alongside all kinds of cracks and splinters and painful effort.  The only alternative is fatal disconnection, and a requirement for more desperate exertions later on. Clumsy ol’ W, for all his faults, had a much better strategy on this one, and the Obami should hurry to embrace it, or some more refined version of it.  I strongly suspect that they will otherwise find it forced into their arms anyway – we may hope not too late.

22 comments on “In the general direction of Mecca…

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  1. So far,there are about 800 comments(WSJ) on Dorthy’s opinion,I have spent several hours today,checking them out. Many.believe that she is way too kind to Obama,him being a threat to the American Way of Life,also many believe that Obama does not “qualify” legally,to be President.
    My interest in this, is one paragraph,which I will deconstruct here and now.
    “Those qualities to be expected in a president were never about rhetoric; Mr. Obama had proved himself a dab hand at that on the campaign trail. (1)They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance. (2)These are feelings held deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.
    (3)A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. (4)He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. (5)He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

    In #s 1&2,add the word SOME before people and American,and I agree with her sentiment.

    #3,”a great part of America” Correct if a great part of America is around 30% of America

    #4 He is hard put, etc etc, to that 30%.

    #5 He is an Alien,To that same 30%

    What Dorthy won’t recognize is thatThere are others who are bound by the idea that the nation is held captive by Hybris and Imperial overreach,and they are a legitimate voting block. They are in need of representation just as is The Silent 30%.
    Those who reject the myths of exceptionalism need a representitive too.

    I don’t even believe Obama is the first of his kind,I believe FDR was far more Radical and antiexceptionalist than poor cautious Obama.

    It will probably never happen,but I’m a great believer in the virtues of Divorce. Those who agree with DR should be allowed to have their own nation. The easiest way is to grant the South and the West to the Rabaniwitzians,the EAST and the Far West go to the Antiexceptionalists,and we split the Midwest.

  2. One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since,

    follows your posted quotation from Rabinowitz……

    wonderful nut job stuff this.

    there’s a job on FOX in there somewhere.

  3. @ first lesson is free:
    Still qualifies as an oddly insensitive act, one of the first merely symbolic acts of the Administration, around the same time as the gift of a Walmarty DVD sampler and an iPod with pre-loaded Ø’s greatest speeches as against, what was it, a great desk fashioned from the timbers of the Repulse or some such.

    Or do you think they just ran out of space at the WH, and Malia just fell in love with the antique coffee shop table JukeBox with the hard-to-find Chubby Checker 45s – so the Churchill bust had to go?

  4. It was in keeping with his family legend of his grandfather being persecuted by the Brits back in ’49, under the ‘hardline’ regime
    of Ernest Bevin, doubtful that they were really that interested, he carries all the ressentiments of Fanon, Malcolm, Lumumba probably
    toward the West

  5. @ CK MacLeod:

    it qualifies as something about which we no nothing.

    or it could be that some one might think that the name of Churchill are too closely associated with Imperialism, colonialism and prejudice.

    or it could be that Churchill was simply an ugly old stoat and nobody liked looking at him.

  6. @ narciso:

    I doubt that Churchill’s unceasing attempts to get the US to allow the Crown to retain dominion over British possessions in Asia aren’t remembered and taught to students in Asia.

  7. She received a Pulitzer for uncovering the travesty of a sham of that
    false child abuse investigation in Massachussetts that everyone from
    Harshbarger ot Coakley were a party to the coverup.

  8. The Amirault case, plus she is consistently one of the best commentators on media and politics, yes she makes an occassional slip up now and again, this was certainly as insightful as Adjami’s contributions

  9. fat frog’s burden,
    I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was born in Brooklyn and lived there until I was 14. Are you suggesting that mafiosi murder their daughters for going out on dates? Do you think that Hasidim do so? They don’t.

  10. Here’s something more about how leftists know nothing about honor murders. Homosexuals are routinely murdered by their relatives everywhere in the Islamic world. Gay rights organizations are always anti-Israel. Spanish gay-pride parade organizers are now banning Israel.

    Queers for Palestine = Turkeys for Thanksgiving.

  11. @ George Jochnowitz:

    Uncle, you need to look around more. You’ll find that homosexual advocacy organizations are well aware of Islamist intolerance. They campaign against the horror of the Iranian regime.

    However, George, even homosexual people make decisions on grounds other than how a regime treats homosexuals, kind of like real people, more than one-dimensional.
    (Sometimes even leftists are more than one-dimensional.)

  12. @ factualizing frog:
    Homosexual organizations are aware of the executions of teenage homosexuals in Iran and have spoken against it. They are unaware of honor murders of gays in Palestine. They don’t know that Palestinian homosexuals have fled to Israel and been granted asylum there. They don’t know that Israel has annual gay pride parades not only in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem. And most of all, they don’t know that Israel drafts openly homosexual men and women into its armed forces.
    Ignorance is bliss. Hate Israel. Hate. Hate. Hate.

  13. There are now 1100 comments on the DR article 95% either favorable,or she wasn’t harsh enough. Very little disagreement from the WSJ group on a negative take on Obama.

  14. New Lyrics for Nat King Cole

    Tar balls coasting on an oily tide,
    Stock slike nipping at their rears
    Quid pro quos being laid by their side,
    And folks aroused by job loss fears.

    Everybody knows Barack and his Chicago crew,
    Can’t dodge John Q’s sharp turn right,
    They have not a clue, What oh what will they do,
    To get to sleep election night?

    They know the chickens are coming home,
    To the roosts from which they sadly roamed,
    As every mother’s child asks, Why oh why,
    Did we ever believe that Obamabird could fly?

    And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
    To kids from one to ninety-two,
    Although its been said many times, many ways,
    Don’t trust promises too good to be true.

  15. @ Sully:
    was better before you changed the last line… I know I know I KNOW I always say that, but it’s fine work from beginning to all but the last lines, which fall flat, esp. in the new version.

  16. @ CK MacLeod:

    This time there’s no question you’re right. I’ve changed it again.

    I can’t remember how I had the original last line. The rest of that stanza is a straight lift from the song.

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